I never really thought I would be here, in this place wondering what is next.
When we left Aberdeen it was in hopeful anticipation of the next step almost being an immediate thing. At first it was a bit disappointing…. ok really disappointing. I really didn’t have much time to reflect on what was next. It was a whirlwind of activity coupled with a sandstorm of tasks, list upon list of check boxes to tick, before we could leave the UK.
Now that we have had some time to settle, I’ve had a chance to reflect on aspects of my calling that I hadn’t anticipated resurfacing. It’s funny how the things you recognise in other people’s lives quickly become your blind spots. I’ve counseled budding ministry hopefuls how a calling to ministry is dynamic. God calls a person to serve him in a capacity he divinely chooses, not as a professional minister that progresses through the ranks of church leadership. I had to learn this through difficult trials relating to church ministry.
I so closely associated the instance of my calling, during a small youth ministry event at which I was volunteering, with my calling itself that I thought I would spend the rest of my life in youth ministry. I was determined to be that cool old guy (in his late 30s) that still had crazy energy and would run around with the youth of the church staying up all night during lock-ins and eating pizza 4 times a week.
I’d like to think I am still pretty cool, my own teenage sons might agree if you catch them in the right hormonal state and I haven’t told them to clean up after themselves in the last few minutes. I can’t eat pizza like that anymore and expect to not be 400lbs, let alone survive the gut wrenching heartburn that wrathfully sets when I look longingly at any semblance of cheese. Despite my state of coolness, I’ve found my heart naturally moving away from a specific ministry focus on youth.
Its funny, I’ve never viewed youth ministry as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. There were plenty of my colleagues that had this wrong headed view. Youth ministry for a couple of years, then on to an associate role, then a senior pastorate. Its as if there was a hopeful idea of ministry promotion ingrained within the expectations of someone that has been “called to ministry.” It is a mindset that, I believe, is also ingrained within individuals that make up our church congregations. I can’t recall exactly how many times that I was asked in church job interviews (and normal conversations) how long I planned to stay in youth ministry before becoming a senior pastor, but it was a lot.
I naturally balked at the idea that there was an expectation of progression through the ranks of ministry, that someday I would stop running around with the kids and take my job as a pastor seriously. I was committed to youth ministry for life! Yet, over the past 6 or 7 years, I’ve seen my heart for youth to vibrantly experience the love of Christ drift towards a similar but altogether different focus, a heart for the disenfranchised adult that doesn’t understand the richness available in relationship with the triune God.
I think I understand, in a little deeper way, that my own calling to ministry is dynamic. Like I said before, I used tell others this. It has taken a few close friends to remind me of my own blind spots and speak into my life, encouraging me to consider how God has used me in the lives of the people I have encountered, in a church setting and within my very unchurched community.
I’m just wondering how he will take an enigma like me, an individual who spent 10 years in youth ministry, trained to plant churches, served in seminary leadership, then worked in 5 years in university fundraising while finishing a PhD. In the meantime, we continue to live by faith, expectant for God to place us where he can use us. With no source of income, car, or substantial savings, I’m just hoping it happens quickly:)